As I sit next to my happy, confident, relaxed puppy taking a luxurious nap in her crate (which she voluntarily entered, by the way!), I am filled to the brim with thankfulness to Bonny King-Taylor, The Doggy Lama.
After only having my puppy for a week, I was nearly ready to call the rescue right back up and tearfully admit that I just couldn’t cut it as a dog mom, and certainly not a dog trainer. Enter Bonny, who went out of her way to travel to my home on a weekend to meet with me, my husband, and Kira for hours.
Bonny is the type of person that makes you feel like you’ve made a friend immediately. She listened to us – and I mean really listened! She met us where we were and helped us build our knowledge and confidence from there. And that’s the thing – our visit with Bonny was much more about us than it was Kira!
Bonny helped us recognize where our anxiety lay and how it was influencing our relationship with our dog, and those realizations helped us begin to create a dynamic that is respectful, clear, calm, loving, and joyful with our dog. Bonny also has an immense amount of knowledge about the nuts and bolts of the dog world and was able to make excellent recommendations for us – breeds, food, toys, leashes, crates, etc.
We cannot recommend Bonny highly enough to anyone looking to improve their relationship with their dog.
Spring is blooming all over and it’s the perfect time to help our fur friends to get in shape.
According to a recent study published in the Wall Street Journal, one-fifth of dogs and cats are classified ‘obese’, while more than 30 per cent are above normal weight. This epidemic is causing record-breaking cases of pet arthritis, cancers, diabetes and kidney failure.
No one wants to think of their pooch as pudgy, or their cat as fat, but the good news is that this condition is 100% within our control.
Steven Budsberg, veterinary expert at the University of Georgia, told the Wall Street Journal, ‘There’s the high cost to people, and it’s self-induced. I never met a German shepherd who could open the refrigerator or food bag and pour himself another bowl.’
Try these get-fit tips this spring, and all year round:
I’m both sad and glad to report that my friends’ Beagle mix, Sassafras is still missing. It’s sad because she has been on the street since April 8th. It’s glad because recent search tracks have indicated that she is still out there. (See the latest in her blog here.)
I spoke to one of Sassafras’ people yesterday about DC Lost Pet Alert wanting to know the most important things anyone hoping to help in a search should know.
What struck me the most is that the one thing a good-hearted person would want to do to help is the very last thing they should do.
When my friend said, “Tell people to take a picture right away, preferably one with a time stamp. Collect as much information as you can about where you are. Do NOT chase the dog!” it made perfect sense in a way I had not thought of before.
By trying to be a helping hero, rather than collecting information, you could actually make things worse for the dog.
Read more about why it is such a bad idea, after the jump.
This is one of my favorite events of the year.
I’ll be joining a couple of local dignitaries at the judging table. We will put our noses together to choose the best in show, as well as best costume, best trick, funniest, smallest/tallest, etc.
See the calendar for details and then bring your four footed friends for a fun time!
Just recently, I witnessed a well-meaning dog person pinning his puppy to the ground, his hand around her neck. He used an alpha roll in an effort to teach his dog to not jump on other dogs in the park.
The puppy screamed so loudly and for so long, that I broke off a conversation I was having with a client, and sprinted across the park. I was expecting to have to do first aid on an injured animal.
Instead, I found this man, holding his four month old down, looking at her with thunder in his eyes.
Can you see the error in his logic?
For years, I’ve been advocating that people leave puppies with their litter mates for at least sixty days and, preferably eighty to ninety.
Doing so gives the puppies the chance to learn natural bite inhibition from their razor toothed mates in a way that human intervention simply can’t. This leads to a soft mouth later in life and much less danger of aggressive biting.
A new study in the British Veterinary Associations Veterinary Record supports this theory and suggests many other behavior problems can be avoided by leaving puppies in the litter for at least 60 days.
The study of 140 dogs between the ages of eighteen months and seven years suggested that dogs taken from their litter between thirty and forty days exhibited destructiveness, aggression, nuisance barking, food and toy defending, neediness, play biting, and resistance on the walk.
The behavior that surprised me, but which makes sense upon reflection, is noise reactivity. Any puppy left with their shrieking, attention-seeking litter mates is bound to be better able to adjust to loud sounds later in life.
Each of the problem behaviors identified in Dr. Federica Pirrone‘s research can be managed with positive reinforcement, desensitization and distraction techniques at any age. But wouldn’t it be great if that weren’t necessary?
The bottom line: Do not despair, or give up, if your dog lacks litter education. Above all, avoid buying puppies from pet shops/puppy mills and breeding farms that sell puppies too early in their development.
Years ago, I worked with a lovely woman whose dog was behaving like the bossiest boss you ever met.
The dog… we’ll call her Prada (no relation to any dog actually named Prada)…was aggressive, overbearing and loud. Her person… we’ll call her Patty…was sad, confused and disappointed in her relationship with her beloved pooch.
“It just shouldn’t be this hard,” she cried.
While visiting their home, it became clear to me that Prada had not been given a job, or any real boundaries at all. Everything that happened in her life was based on making her ‘happy’ in the way a parent would try to make a child happy. The floor was covered with toys, Patty gave Prada the lion’s share of the bed, fed her extravagant foods and basically bent to her every whim.
As a result, Prada was full, fat and very, very unhappy. When I spoke the word ‘unhappy’, Patty’s heart just sank. “What else can I do?” she asked.
The answer? Do a lot less and change your tone of voice. Where Patty had spoken in a quiet, submissive voice, what Prada needed was something much stronger.
I asked Patty to lower the register of her voice and to speak with a louder, more clipped tone so that her dog could better hear her. You see, it isn’t the words you speak, but HOW you speak them that leads to understanding with your dog.
She shrunk back a little and said, “But I don’t want to hurt her. Isn’t it hurting to be mean like that?”
I completely understand where that fear comes from, but it doesn’t belong in human-to-canine communication.
We don’t hurt our dog’s feelings by speaking to them with authority. In fact, we make them feel safer and more calm by doing so.
Bottom line: There is no anger in leadership. Frustration and squishy boundaries don’t make your dog happy. If your dog isn’t happy, you won’t be either!
The truth is, any one of them would be sufficient. The key is to choose one and stick to it. In fact, you could say ‘kumquat’ with the same results, as long as you were consistent.
Problems arise when multiple words, spoken multiple times confuse your dog. It might even seem that your dog is being defiant or devious.
In reality, asking your dog to NOT take any food s/he finds is counter to basic canine instinct. Yelling OFF/DOWN/LEAVE IT doesn’t clarify what you want your dog to do.
Also, your dog cannot understand the multiple meanings we apply to words, nor can s/he understand using more than one word for the same behavior.
Be especially mindful of the difference between ‘down’ and ‘off’. These are the two most often confused and most frustrating words for both people and dogs. Choose one behavior for each word.
For example: off means ‘get off’ and down means ‘chest to the ground.’
If that distinction works for you, stick with it!
If you find yourself fumbling and forgetting the ‘right’ words, try getting your meaning across without words.
Body language is much more effective to your dog’s way of thinking.
All creatures respond to rewarded behaviors. Figure out what you want your dog to do and reward that while avoiding rewards for unwanted behavior.
Keep in mind that your voice, touch, attention, food, games and toys are all rewards.
Even yelling is rewarding!
Practice unwavering leadership every day, especially on your walk. The energy you’re projecting internally is the message you’re sending to your dog.
If you want calm, DO calming things. If you need self-control from your dog, BE an example of self-control to your dog.